August 10, 1969: San Clemente, California—President Richard Nixon accused his predecessor Lyndon Baines Johnson of complicity in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Speaking with reporters on the first day of a 10-day stay at his Pacific Ocean vacation home …
Of course, that never happened. Obviously. How could it; how dare it? But had it happened, such an accusation—by a president, against a former president—would have convulsed the United States and the world. Today, President Donald Trump accused his predecessor Bill Clinton—or possibly his 2016 campaign opponent, the former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—of complicity in the death of the accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Many seem to have responded with a startled shrug. What do you expect? It’s just Trump letting off steam on Twitter.
Reactions to actions by Trump are always filtered through the prism of the ever more widely accepted view—within his administration, within Congress, within the United States, and around the world—that the 45th president is a reckless buffoon; a conspiratorial, racist moron, whose weird comments should be disregarded by sensible people.
By now, Trump’s party in Congress, the members of his Cabinet, and even his White House entourage all tacitly agree that Trump’s occupancy of the office held by Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and Eisenhower must be a bizarre cosmic joke, not to be taken seriously. CNN’s Jake Tapper on August 2 quoted a “senior national security official” as saying: “Everyone at this point ignores what the president says and just does their job. The American people should take some measure of confidence in that.”